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College Basketball March Madness Picks for March 17: NCAA Best Bets on DraftKings Sportsbook

Julian Edlow gives his top NCAA basketball bets on DraftKings Sportsbook for the first round of March Madness on Thursday.

SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

March Madness has finally arrived! We had a pretty good run through the end of the regular season and into Conference Tournaments, but now the big dance is here. Time to lock in some college basketball bets on DraftKings Sportsbook!

Here’s how I’m going to construct these articles during the NCAA Tournament. Rather than just give bets with unit size, I’m going to write up all the bets/leans I’m considering. That way you get more content and insight on more games. But with that said, please be careful. These aren’t all games that I’ll ultimately bet on.

It’s still pretty early as I write these articles. Plenty of time to lock in bets, and also wait for some of these numbers to move in our favor. For my official plays, I’ll continue posting the play to Twitter, but will loop you back to these articles for the analysis.

Everything below is what jumps out to me on the Thursday card. Let’s crush this tournament!


South Region

No. 11 Michigan vs. No. 6 Colorado State — 12:15pm ET

Michigan 1H -1 (-110)

I came into this tournament with the thought process that I’d be fading the Big Ten in a lot of spots, and I do think that’ll hold true for the most past. But this is a pretty unique situation with how the bracket shook out. Michigan has been such a wildcard this season. It began play as a top-five team, but clearly didn’t belong in that conversation. At the same time, the Wolverines proved themselves to be a team that can hold their weight in a very competitive conference that produced the most tournament bids.

So while there’s cause for concern with Michigan, they also clearly have more talent than your common 11-seed. Mix that in with a 6-seed that hasn’t faced many true tests this season, and you have a recipe for an “upset.” Obviously, oddsmakers know this wouldn’t really be an upset, with Michigan reaching as high as a three-point favorite after opening a pick’em.

Colorado State comes in winning games in the MWC, but is just 1-5 ATS over its last six. The Rams had three decent non-conference wins, but were favored in each of them, and they were all played December 11 or earlier. Michigan is coming off an embarrassing loss in the Big Ten tournament, so expect a solid bounce-back early. I don’t love Juwan Howard as a coach, and do think he has something to do with a late game collapse like we saw in the conference tournament. That’s why I’m looking at the first half play here.


Midwest Region

No. 13 South Dakota State vs. No. 4 Providence — 12:40pm ET

Providence ML (-135)

This matchup is going to get a ton of attention, and will be a very popular upset pick in brackets. Rightfully so, SDSU is a very talented team. The Jackrabbits didn’t lose a conference game in the Summit League all season, but they also haven’t even been an underdog since December 15 — a game they lost and failed to cover against Missouri State. The Jackrabbits won just one game as a dog all season — a three-point win over Washington State. It also showed a low floor, losing a game outright as a 22.5-point favorite. The most comparable matchup to Providence that SDSU played during the regular season has to be Alabama. The Jackrabbits were 12.5-point underdogs and lost by 16 points.

Now, the argument that you’ll hear from everyone that loves SDSU is just how lucky Providence has been. They aren’t wrong, PC has gotten some incredibly fortunate bounces this season. But the Friars have also been tremendous in crunch time, part of which is a skill. Providence went 18-2 as a favorite this season, and I think this is a game they should win as the more skilled team. Going against the grain on a trendy upset pick by backing the much better team at an insanely short number. People already have it drilled into their minds to fade Providence, and I just don’t think this is the spot.


West Region

No. 16 Georgia State vs. No. 1 Gonzaga — 4:15pm ET

Gonzaga 1H -14 (-110)

Georgia State got really hot down the stretch in the Sun Belt, entering the NCAA Tournament on a 10-game win streak. The Panthers have been favored in 12 straight games, and have only been an underdog twice since the New Year — and both games were two-point dogs or shorter.

This team has gotten mopped anytime it has faced anything close to real competition. The last decent competition the Panthers played was a bad ACC team in Georgia Tech in late December, losing by double-digits as a 4.5-point dog. Georgia State was also a 9.5-point underdog to Mississippi State, but wound up losing 79-50. Even earlier in the season, the Panthers tried to test themselves with a couple of games against Atlantic-10 competition. They wound up losing to Rhode Island and Richmond by a combined 51 points.

I’m not going to try and sell you on Gonzaga here, because you know what they are by now. But anytime Georgia State has taken the floor with decent competition, it has gotten rolled. How do we think this goes matching up against the top overall seed in the tournament? Zags should be up more than 20 points heading into the locker room at half.


West Region

No. 13 Vermont vs. No. 4 Arkansas — 9:20pm ET

Arkansas -5 (-105)

This reminds me exactly of last year’s matchup in the tournament when Arkansas drew Colgate. Colgate was a very trendy pick, and it did have the Hogs on the ropes early, but ultimately Arkansas prevailed and won/covered. Now we’re in a similar situation with a really good Vermont team. UVM is good, but kind of like the Providence analysis, I think people are going to force this as a spot for them when in reality it’s a really tough game.

UVM has won 22 of its last 23 games. It dropped one game as a double-digit favorite in conference play, but otherwise has been machine-like in beating lesser teams. But prior to American East conference play, Vermont looked far more beatable. UVM did lose two games as short favorites to lower level competition, but we’ll point to the games against power five teams to get the best comparison to Arkansas.

The Catamounts faced Maryland in November, losing by 11 as 10-point dogs. They also played Providence in December, losing by 10 as 6.5-point dogs. I don’t want to discredit this team, as it is good enough to stay in games with very good teams and not get blown out. But I’m also convinced this number is way to short due to pounding poor competition for the last three months.

UVM has also letdown on a neutral floor this season, going 0-2-1 ATS. The Hogs enter tournament play 13-1 over their last 14 as a favorite, and going 11-2-1 ATS over their last 14 overall. I think this team is too talented to lay such a short number against UVM.


Moneyline Parlay

Iowa/Arkansas/Houston (+110)

This parlay tips on Thursday, and goes into Friday with the Houston leg. Again, we have plenty of teams to choose from as parlay pieces, but anything up higher than Iowa’s price is just a little too pricey, barley moving the juice for us. I think a combo of using at least two of these pieces is the best way to go if you’re going to parlay favorites.

I already laid out my argument for Arkansas so I won’t add anything there. Iowa is a monster favorite over Richmond, which is just a terrible matchup for the veteran Spiders. They snuck in and stole a bid by winning the A-10, and would’ve been the type of team that could steal a game in the right matchup. But Iowa comes in hot off their Big Ten championship, and should just have too much offense for the Spiders to ultimately keep up with.

Houston is an interesting one, as it draws UAB. The Blazers are a dangerous team, and I’m not willing to lay the points with the Cougars, but I also don’t see them losing this game. KenPom has Houston as a top-five team in the country, coming off an impressive AAC tournament win. I think they have enough to get by here, just maybe not by nine or more.

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All betting odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.


All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public contests.


The contents contained in this article do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment.


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